Friday, October 24, 2014

Happy New Year

I went to see the movie Happy New Year with a near-zero expectation. I haven't really watched the movie trailers but then the promos on every TV channel including a news channel  piqued my curiosity.
Yet, that itself should have acted as a warning. You need not sell something so feverishly when you know there is something substantial to pull in the audience. Ra.One, all its marketing and its failure at box-office is still fresh in mind. According to Boman's admission, the team spent as much time marketing this film as they did shooting it.
Well, my heart sank when I saw that the movie was 180 minutes long! And, for the first one hour of the movie that the heroine doesn't appear, you are stuck watching a group of aging men acting like teenagers.
Shah Rukh Khan as the producer and Farah Khan as the director  have failed to create the magic they did in their last venture together, Om Shanti Om. Shah Rukh's last one, Chennai Express was, at least, entertaining and funny and had you engaged. But 180 minutes of  the movie of which about an hour is wasted in establishing the backgrounds of each character puts you to sleep.
Shah Rukh Khan, despite his ten-pack, is visibly aging. Deepika Padukone has not much to do except flaunt her hot body in the role of a dancer. Her role carries shades of Rakhi Sawant... "I spik Englis" , "Go slip" kind of English. Abhishekh Bachan is good at what he does best...the oafish character. Sonu Sood was funny and a surprise factor as I have only seen  him play villainish roles in Telugu. Boman looks positively bored.
Among all these, comes Vivaan Shah as a breath of fresh air. He is a kid, has abundant energy and carries all the naivety and freshness of a new-comer. If he carries even half the artistry in his parents' genes, he will make it.
The movie is about planning and pulling off a heist. Wait a minute! And that's all there is to it. Stretching this wafer-thin story to three hours makes it a thoroughly exhausting viewing.  The movie has none of the suspense expected of a heist. It only checks each element thought necessary for a successful movie: dance, check;  fights, check;  hero baring chest/abs, check;  comedy, check.
Fortunately for the audience, the last 45 minutes pick up pace and entertain. The comedy is good in bits and pieces. Like the team's attempts at learning dancing. Oh now don't ask me what dance has to do in a suspense movie? Logic goes for a toss with the plot's mulitiple contrivances. Some dialogs from earlier Shah Rukh Khan movies fail to make the intended impact.

The roles:
Shah Rukh: The leader who has to avenge for  'tera baap chor hai'
Jackie Shroff: The villian from whom the diamonds are to be wrested
Abhishekh Bacahan: Brought in as he resembles Jackie Shroff's son. Yes, a double role
Boman Irani: An expert safe-cracker
Sonu Sood: The strong man
Vivaan Shah: The computer hacker
Anupam Kher: Shah Rukh's father, wasted in a blink-and-miss role
Sajid Khan: Doing what, Farah?
Deepika Padukone: Dance teacher who helps the team learn dance so that they can successfully pull off the heist. Huh?
Brief comic appearances by Vishal Dadlani and Anurag Kashyap...not funny and end up as caricatures.

I will go with one and a half on five for Happy New Year.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Food in Gujarat

When I went to Gujarat, I wanted to partake of the typical Gujarati food. And also check how the restaurants' food compared to the ones experienced at Hyderabad. As I am a vegetarian, here are the different vegetarian options I tried there.
My plans aside, what I happened to start with was this charming place called Cheval Cafe and Lounge with few indoor games laid out on different tables, casual low seating, a huge screen...generally a place where youngsters could let their hair down. And the food? Was simply awesome!

             Russian Salad at Cheval Cafe & Lounge, Ahmedabad 

Pasta stuffed Pizza at Cheval Cafe & Lounge, Ahmedabad 

A mocktail at Cheval Cafe & Lounge, Ahmedabad

Khichu and Dhokla, Gujarati steamed delights at Alpha Mall, Ahmedabad
When I visited the Law Garden area for the street food and shopping, I visited the only stall selling Gujarati and Kutchi food and tasted this.

Bajri no Rotlo and Thota at Law Garden, Ahmedabad

Kathod at Law Garden, Ahmedabad

I made it a point to go to Swati Snacks, a Mumbai based eatery, and highly recommended by friends. A look at the menu below would confirm this place to be slightly on the expensive side. Ordered for their famous Panki Chatni. The taste was similar to our rava dosa, steamed in layers of banana leaf and had a hot and sour flavor to it. Very heavy for one person as it had about five layers.

The Mumbai famous Swati Snacks at Ahmedabad

Panki Chatni at Swati Snacks, Ahmedabad

Panki Chatni at Swati Snacks, Ahmedabad

This humble breakfast of poori, aloo deserves a special mention as the aloo jeera was awesome in taste with a  pinch of sugar added to the curry to spike its flavors. Awesome breakfast served in my room at Hotel Oasis.

Poori, Aloo Jeera at Oasis Hotel, Bhuj

On way to Mandvi beach, I requested my cab driver to show me a typical Kuthci food outlet as we were in the Kutch region. He made a few queries with his friends around Mandvi and drove down to this Aadesh Dhaba & Restaurant. The two of us ate for a grand total of 213/- for Rotis, two curries, and butter milk. The curries came with very unique and sharp taste.

Aadesh Dhaba, Mandvi, Kutch

Aadesh Dhaba, Mandvi, Kutch
Ringana Msala, Rajwadi Dhokri , Tawa roti, Lasan ki Chutney at Aadesh Dhaba, Mandvi, Kutch

Khichidi loaded with ghee, Lasan ki chutney and Achaar at Oasis Hotel, Bhuj

Oasis had attached to it, a South Indian restaurant famous in Gujarat, the Sankalp. It emulates the chutneys that we find in our own Chutneys' restaurant but I found no match in taste. I avoided South Indian food throughout my tour but gave in to this as a last and quick snack before I boarded my train back.

Sankalp, a South Indian restaurant at Oasis Hotel, Bhuj
This is definitely among the hidden jewels across India. In my quest for handicrafts and other priceless work from deep rural pockets of Gujarat, I happened to visit Bhirandiyara with a total population of less than 2500 and here is what I found.
The only place in Gujarat where Mawa is sold in its purest form. No maida, no dry nothing...only milk boiled and boiled till its reduced to this form with sugar. And the price? Unbelievable at 200 per kg!

The famous Mawa at Bhirandiyara


Pakwaan vs Gordhan vs Agashiye. 200 vs 250 vs 670. 
The bigger the restaurant the smaller the thali size. For those going to Ahmedabad, the good old Gordhan is the answer if you do not have the time to try all of them.

Gordhan Thaal, Ahmedabad

Accompaniments at Gordhan Thaal, Ahmedabad

Gordhan Thaal, Ahmedabad

Agashiye Thali at The House of MG, Ahmedabad

Pakwan Thali, Ahmedabad

Pakwan Thali, Ahmedabad
After days of Gujarati food, finally Punjabi fare at an unbelievable price of 210/- for this whole platter of 5 kinds of kababs, four each! Can never imagine this quantity for the price in mana Hyderabad!

Sumptuous Paneer Platter from the kitchen of Hotel Atithi, Ahmedabad
And finally, the bring-home snacks from the most famous snack house in Ahmedabad

Induben Khakrawala, CG Road, Ahmedabad
To sum up

  • I found the Gujaratis as much of foodies as our Hyderabadis are. My conclusion is drawn from the huge number of restaurants found there
  • The vegetarian options outnumber the non-vegetarian ones. 
  • What I also liked is the quantities per serve. Huge! And therefore truly VFM as the prices were almost half those of Hyderabad. 
  • The not so good thing about Gujarat is the price of tea. A place which is known for its milk production, has its tea priced so high, it is amazing. They have not heard of  Rs.5/- tea at all. The mimimum price for tea even in a road side stall is 10/. And if one were to ask for a special tea which, in our case, was nothing but tea with slightly less sugar, the price can go up to even 20/- . So my usual tea drinking option when I travel came down drastically. 
  • What I found common with Hyderabad is the paan...a mind boggling array of paan leaves and flavors starting from 10/...and all of them wonderfully flavored. 
I hope this post of mine, is helpful to guide tourists to Gujarat to some extent.

Saturday, October 4, 2014


Had been impatiently waiting for the release of this movie for long and finally! Haider, it was today!
In a scenario where very often the Indian movies and the actors these days urge you to leave your brains behind when you come to watch their movie, we have a breather in the form of Haider which leaves you spellbound for the  two and half hours of the movie's running time. This movie requires you to apply your intelligence, listen to every word spoken, understand, analyze and absorb it.
There are such complex human emotions involved...elements of poetry, romance, comedy, pathos...How the director Vishal Bhardwaj balances so many emotions and shades of character so dexterously is amazing. People have been speaking of Tabu's acting in this movie but my eyes were on K. K. Menon, the evil and slimy character of Khurram, uncle to Haider (Shahid Kapoor). I was missing seeing him in recent movies and then bang, he makes this appearance and what an appearance! His repulsive and slimy ways make you loathe him to the core.
Shahid has aced in every nuance of the character, crying, laughing, dancing, romancing as a troubled college student, as a lunatic, as a revengeful young guy...He has finally come of age with this one.
Irfan shines as usual in his brief role. Tabu's character portrays the body language of the old and young woman equally effortlessly as the plot keeps swinging between the present and past.
Brief but brilliant cameos by Ashish Vidyarthi and Kulbhushan Kharbanda add the necessary subtle elements to complement the story.
Among all such strong portrayals, newbie Shraddha Kapoor manages to hold her fort, though she doesn't have a lot to do.
The movie is an adaption of Hamlet. Set in troubled Kashmir of the 90s, it shows how lives are effected in the strife between Pak-India-Kashmir. The director has chosen to tell the story of one such family that is caught in this milieu.
The story is that of a young man in search of his father who was taken away years ago as he was suspected to be siding with the militants and of all such half widows in Kashmir. Bhardwaj has been very cautious, treading the line carefully, not siding with any of the parties nor adapting a preachy tone.
Plenty of discerning subtleties in the movie need rapt attention. After 'Lunch Box,' this was a movie where I uttered not a word and never realized how that 2 hours and 42 minutes of the time flew.
For those seeking pot boilers and mere mindless entertainment, please keep away. But for those seeking a story, passion, an intensity and acting, que up, buy the tickets and rush to the theaters. Don't know when again Hindi cinema would dare make its footfalls on this untrodden path.